Friday, August 6, 2010

How to Live Cheaply in New York: Transportation

This is part of a series of living cheaply in New York. See previous posts: Grocery shopping, Housing, Entertainment

This one's pretty simple: take public transportation. Currently a monthly unlimited metrocard is $89. This card is good for all subways and buses (except express buses, which I've never used) all month long, any time of day. The subway is generally very safe, even late at night, and I'm lucky to live just two blocks off the train. I take the subway almost exclusively.

For trips to the airport, sometimes I'll take a cab or car service. That winds up being about $13 plus tip, but late at night or with lots of bags, it can be worth it. I know some people take cabs all the time, but I actually can't think of the last time I hailed a cab for something other than the airport. It's an unnecessary expense, and I find it kind of nauseating to ride in a backseat anymore. For out of towners, here are some cab/car service guidelines:
  • Only yellow cabs are allowed to pick up fares from the street. Car service companies ("gypsy cabs"--usually black or grey Lincoln Town Cars) are not supposed to, although of course it happens. If you do take a car service, agree on the price before you get in. 
  • Cabs are required to take you where you want to go, even if it's way out in a borough. If a cabbie balks or refuses, take down their medallion number and file a complaint with 311. 
  • You can pay with cash or a credit/debit card. All cabs are required to take cards, and you can file a complaint if the cabbie refuses.
  • You have the right to a smoke-free, silent ride if you request it, and you have the right to the route of your choice (ie, if you'd prefer the driver take the West Side Highway to Broadway).
  • There is a flat-rate fare to JFK but metered fare to La Guardia. Tolls are the passenger's responsibility.
  • Tip your driver.

Owning a car in New York is strange to me. I know a lot of people do it, but it's weird. Between registration expenses, gas, insurance, and alternate side parking, it seems like such a hassle. When I do need a car, I rent one at La Guardia. Peanut and I have also discussed getting a ZipCar membership, but we don't need wheels frequently enough to justify it. I have a couple friends who have a membership, and we can take advantage of that if necessary.

New York's fabulous public transit system really makes the most sense for anyone living or visiting here. How do you save on transportation costs where you live?

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